Best Crime Dramas of 2013

1 Breaking Bad

The series that was a hit by virtue of word-of-mouth rather than huge ratings or, in the UK, even being

broadcast by a national channel. In the US, of course, makers AMC showed it, but in the Britain such was the anticipation for the concluding fifth series of Walter White’s journey from decent chemistry teacher to methamphetamine-manufacturing gangster and all-round monster that Netflix showed it soon after its US broadcast. With powerful performances from Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul and Dean Norris, BB became a cultural phenomenon, setting the social networking world alight and taking up acres of print columns. It was at times surreal, dark, horrific, hilarious, tense, but always compelling. In terms of ambition and daring, it was a series that showed the best US television is in a different league to British drama.


This was a labour of love for writer Chris Chibnall, a series he wrote on spec, without commission, because he had the itch to do it. Which suggests that tinkering from executives at ITV was kept to a minimum and the eight-part series flouished as a gripping, character-rich series. Terrific writing and a great cast – David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan among them – lifted this way above your average whodunit. Chibnall is now writing a new version for American TV with David Tennant again starring, and Broadchurch 2 will hit ITV probably some time in 2015.

3 The Fall

Another series that was the inspiration of one writer. Allan Cubitt worked hard to create a chilling, realistic serial killer for this five-parter, and Paul Spector (played with icy menace by Jamie Dornan) was unforgettable. The character was far more compelling than the ludicrous genius killer cliches of the Hannibal Lecter type, Spector being a normal family man in a caring profession (grief counsellor) whose secret obsession was murdering women. Gillian Anderson was formidable as the detective who could match his calculating precision and managed to close in on the killer in a cliffhanger ending that will see the series make a much-anticipated return.

Peaky Blinders

Quite a few ‘historical’ dramas like to use ‘period’ as a way to pretty-up a series. Shows such as The Tudors and even Downton Abbey are not overly concerned with getting under the skin of the past. But Peaky Blinders takes its setting and time seriously, and is fascinated by the inter-war era of gangs in Birmingham. It merged a little known true story with a tense drama, as Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) tried to build a seriously powerful crime empire in the face of gang rivals and the scary Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill). The drama looked stunning too, and has deservedly been commissioned for a second series.


Channel 4
Utopia was different. In a sea of costume crime dramas and whodunits (Foyle’s War, Marple, Poirot, Ripper Street, WPC 56, Father Brown etc etc etc), it stood out. A conspiracy hidden in a graphic novel and a flood of conspiracies designed to hide a real conspiracy certainly grabbed the attention. It was quirky and scary, but kept most of us intrigued through its six episodes. Neil Maskell certainly arrived on the TV radar with his performance as the torturing psycho Paul, and the whole cast – Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Alexandra Roach, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Adeel Akhtar – kept the drama sparking along. With dramas such as Utopia and Southcliffe, C4 offered something fresh and distinctive this year.

Justified 4

This year’s season revolved around a rather garbled storyline that was pretty hard to make sense of, kicking off with a prologue about a guy with a defective parachute plummeting to earth and landing with bags of cocaine and an ID for ‘Waldo Truth’. This McGuffin tied-in mafia figures, Raylan’s father, a snake-handling preacher and Wynn Duffy. Despite the messy story arc, on a week-to-week basis, deputy US marshal and cowboy-hat wearer Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) still gave good value for money. The character was the creation, of course, of Elmore Leonard, who sadly passed away in August, aged 87. He left behind some wonderful novels, and this sharp, cool TV series, which has been recommissioned for a fifth series. When so many mainstream US crime series are obsessed with forensic porn and buff model cops, it’s a joy to take the back roads of Kentucky for a sassy, gritty crime saga.


Fox UK
It’s a wrap for Dex, one of the most audacious and subversive dramas yet to emerge during the TV renaissance that’s occurred since the late 1990s and the arrival of the US subscription channels – HBO, Fox, Showtime and AMC. Getting us on the side of a serial killer was a spectacular trick to pull off, but we were there with Dexter Morgan as he duelled with other killers, maintained his front as a blood-spatter analyst for Miami Metro Police, and tried to be a brother to cop sister Debs. This was a high-wire act for the character and the writers, and in seeking to close the drama (Debra dies and Dexter fakes his own suicide) the show polarised fans. But it was still a stunning, if bloody, series, and Michael C Hall and Jennifer Carpenter were compelling to the end.


The Inspector Morse spin-off prequel capitalised on its hugely successful pilot by becoming a character-driven series that remained true to the original. Everyone remembers John Thaw’s grumpy, lonely older Morse, but here we got an insight into how he grew into that person by watching Shaun Evans’s gifted, stand-offish younger detective. The cases were suitably challenging as brainteasers for our hero, and the cast, particularly Roger Allam and Anton Lesser, brought the drama alive. A new series is on the way.


Sky Atlantic
A bloody, racing, furiously aggressive show with a crazy premise that was nevertheless addictive viewing for anyone who can’t bear cosy mysteries in period costumes or anything resembling a traditional police procedural. Antony Starr is ‘Lucas Hood’ – we never learn his real name – who leaves prison and is immediately on the run from the Russian mobsters he betrayed. He finds himself in Banshee, an Amish town, looking for the beauty with whom he stole the Russians’ diamonds, Anatasia (Ivana Milicevic). The opportunity presents itself for our man to assume the identity of the new sheriff in town, who conveniently is killed in a bar brawl before he can officially take the post. It’s filled with great characters, sex, violence that is wince-inducing and preposterous, and rounded off with a great finale. Fortunately, there’s more to come with a new series for 2014.

10 Arne Dahl

Nordic noir continued to cast its spell in the shape of this Swedish crime thriller about an elite team of detectives. It was a shift away from the angst-riven brilliance of Sarah Lund in The Killing towards a more mainstream cop series of the kind made in the US and Britain. But this series, based on Jan Arnald’s novels, had a cast of interesting characters and an intriguing and tense conspiracy to explore.

Series that were worth investigating but failed to make the Top 10: Scott & Bailey, Spiral, Sons of Anarchy, The Americans, Young Montalbano, Top Boy 2, The Great Train Robbery, Lucan, Top of the Lake, Montalbano, The Tunnel, Boardwalk Empire 4, Law & Order: UK

Series that never proved their cases beyond reasonable doubt: The Ice Cream Girls, Mayday, Foyle’s War, Prisoners’ Wives, Hannibal, The Following, Life of Crime, Mad Dogs 3, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher 2, Luther 3, What Remains, Vera 3, Southcliffe, New Tricks, Bates Motel, Case Histories 2, The Guilty, Wentworth Prison, Whitechapel 4, Ripper Street 2, Homeland, By Any Means

Series that plodded along: Father Brown, Silent Witness, Vegas, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Death in Paradise, WPC 56, Poirot, Murder on the Home Front, Jo

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Crime Thriller Award nominees 2013

ACTORS AND TV folk are gathering at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Thursday to give out gongs to the best crime dramas and movies of the year.

Broadchurch, the superb ITV series starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, dominates the nominations with six nods from the selection judges (of which CrimeTimePreview is a voting member). This is fair enough, as no UK drama generated as much buzz as Broadchurch in 2013.

Luther is not far behind with four nominations, while BBC2’s The Fall limps in with a disappointing two noms – TV Dagger and Best Actress for Gillian Anderson – which is a poor return for one of the best and most original series we’ve seen recently.

The Killing 3 with Sofie Grabol turn up for the last time as the groundbreaking Danish series reached a fittingly bold finale this year. That other major international hot show of the moment, Homeland, is also strongly represented with four nominations – International TV Dagger, Mandy Patinkin, Damian Lewis and, of course, Claire Danes.

The event will be broadcast on ITV3 on Tuesday, 29 October, at 9pm.

What do you think of the nominees? There’s nothing for New Tricks or Midsomer or Ripper Street or Lewis? Comment below…

The TV Dagger

Luther • Top of the Lake • Broadchurch • The Fall • Bletchley Circle

The International TV Dagger

Homeland • Boardwalk Empire • The Killing 3 • Arne Dahl

The Best Supporting Actor Dagger

Paul McGann A Mother’s Son • Mandy Patinkin Homeland • Andrew Buchan Broadchurch • Warren Brown Luther • Roger Allam Endeavour

The Best Supporting Actress Dagger

Pauline Quirke Broadchurch • Amelia Bullmore Scott & Bailey • Holly Hunter Top of the Lake • Jodie Whittaker Broadchurch • Ruth Wilson Luther

The Best Actor Dagger

Damian Lewis Homeland • David Tennant Broadchurch • Idris Elba Luther • Jason Isaacs Case Histories • Paddy Considine The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder in Angel Lane

The Best Actress Dagger

Sofie Grabol The Killing 3 • Olivia Colman Broadchurch • Claire Danes Homeland • Gillian Anderson The Fall • Lesley Sharp Scott & Bailey

The Film Dagger

Sky Fall • Jack Reacher • Killing Them Softly • Looper • Seven Psychopaths

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David Tennant joins US version of Broadchurch

David Tennant Pic: Alacoolk

Guest contributor KEVIN GANNON investigates news that David Tennant is translating his character of detective inspector Hardy to the new American version of ITV’s Broadchurch

QUITE OFTEN, popular British shows and films make their way to the United States with a completely new cast, set of writers, and everything in between. But there have been a few standout exceptions, including Mark Strong’s reprisal of his own leading role (Frank Agnew) in the stateside adaptation of Channel 4’s Low Winter Sun for Fox TV.

Now Broadchurch, one of our favourite shows of 2013 – we didn’t call it the best new UK crime series for nothing – can be added to that small list, according to US television bible TV Guide. And David Tennant is set to reprise his leading role in the American version.

Tennant with an American accent

For those who missed it, Broadchurch featured David Tennant’s character, detective inspector Alec Hardy, arriving at a sleepy coastal town to investigate the murder of a young boy. The child’s death is the driving force of the show’s narrative as Hardy interviews members of the community to find answers. What he does discover is that almost everyone is a suspect.

Therein lies the reason the show is so intriguing, in addition to the sharp writing. Speaking of writing, the show’s creator, Chris Chibnall, is penning the US series premiere for Fox, and he’s executive producing the show, too.

Tennant’s role in the remake will be similar, though it’s not clear if the plot will remain exactly the same. Also, he’ll be masking his native Scottish accent and speaking with a more Americanised accent. The drama will be filmed in January.

Will David Tennant return for ITV’s Broadchurch 2?

Oliva Colman and David Tennant in ITV's Broadchurch 2013
Oliva Colman and David Tennant in Broadchurch. Pic: ITV

This will be the second time Tennant, who was of course the tenth Doctor Who, has crossed the pond to crack America. In 2010 he made a pilot for a show called Rex Is Not Your Lawyer, but the series was never commissioned.

The UK version of Broadchurch has been renewed by ITV for a second season, although it hasn’t been confirmed just yet whether or not Tennant will be on board for that. Will making the American Broadchurch prevent him from returning for ITV’s second series?

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Broadchurch fever, Shetland returns, E4’s new crime drama

 DAVID TENNANT as Alec Hardy and OLIVIA COLMAN as Ellie Miller in ITV's Broadchurch
Ellie (Olivia Colman) and Alec (David Tennant).  Pic: ITV

• An ugly mood is rampant among journalists just now – and it’s nothing to do with Leveson’s proposals for press regulation. There’s indignation and much riding of high horses over ITV’s refusal to allow journos to see the final two episodes of Broadchurch. ‘Can’t believe they’re not putting Broadchurch 7 & 8 on previews. I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG’ – so wailed the editor-in-chief of TV Choice this week on Twitter. And the story is the same at the Mirror‘s We Love TV magazine, where I’ve been working this week. Mirror hacks have been stomping around over their inability to glimpse the final instalments of the David Tennant murder drama. When was the last time a UK cop show had the jaded media so much in its thrall? Anyway, this Monday we reach episode 6 when the seaside town comes together to mourn and a new suspect in the murder of Danny Latimer comes to light. After that, the journalists are going to have to wait…

• BBC1’s Shetland, in comparison, passed with barely a murmur, but channel honchos were happy enough with combined viewing figures over two nights of 12million to quickly commission a full series of six episodes. Douglas Henshall will return in the stories, based on author Ann Cleeves’ series of novels (all split into two parts) – Raven Black, Dead Water and Blue Lightning. I felt that Shetland‘s debut, shown in February, fell way short of the novels. Television chiefs seem obsessed with whodunit and the location of their dramas – and Shetland is a great location – but not with creating interesting characters. Perhaps detective Jimmy Perez will come to life in the new series.

Corleone, mafia drama machine gun scene, Sky Arts

• The cultured air at Sky Arts was shattered last week by the machine gun blasts and mayhem of Corleone, the channel’s new mafia drama about Sicilian mobster Toto Riina. Starring Claudio Gioe, the drama started last Friday (10pm), but you can catch up with it on Sky Go.

• E4 has commissioned an original, eight-part crime drama called Glue. It’s written by Bafta-winner Jack Thorne, and is described as ‘twisted, wayward… a thrilling murder mystery ride through the countryside’. Thorne says, ‘I grew up in Newbury and was fascinated by life around the stables. In an age where the British countryside feels like it’s rotting through disrepair, we want to tell a story about ambition, hope, darkness and anarchy.’

CrimeTimePreview has a new Forum. We’d love to hear what you think about the murder and coppers filling our screens. Drop by any time…

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